Prescription painkillers

Prescription painkillers are being abused at a higher rate than in years past due to many factors including increased availability and the presence of addictive properties which, when prescribed, can lead to addiction for certain individuals. Learn more about how prescription painkillers can easily lead to addiction and what can be done if a loved one is struggling with addiction.


Numbing the Pain

An increased number of Americans are being prescribed painkillers, but not because more Americans are experiencing pain. Prescribers are, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) simply writing more prescriptions for painkillers. The United States is the world’s largest consumer of prescription opioids.


Doctor, Doctor

Pain typically demands immediate attention and people will take what is necessary to alleviate suffering. Opium is a popular painkiller which has been used and abused throughout history. Opium derivatives have also been used which are both natural or synthetic. Although effective as painkillers, it is possible to experience addiction from use of the following drugs:

  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone
  • Methadone
  • Morphine
  • Codeine

Opioids are potent narcotic medications used to relieve severe, acute pain from surgery, trauma or terminal pain from end-of-life diseases. Side effects and risks are well-known yet approximately 30 years ago, the use of opioids for treatment of chronic, nonmalignant pain became more encouraged which kick-started the current prescription drug use epidemic.


Brain Changes

Opioids bind with receptors in the reward center of the brain, creating neurochemical and physical changes to the neuropathways. Over time, tolerance builds requiring higher doses to feel the same effects. Higher doses are then required just to prevent withdrawal symptoms whereby the person then becomes physically dependent on the drug. Addiction can develop quickly depending on an individual’s metabolism, genes, and environment. All humans, however, are susceptible.


Addiction Prevention

It is possible to prevent addiction before it starts. People who do not want opioid painkillers for chronic pain should discuss alternative medications with a health care provider. The goal of therapeutic intervention should be clear when first prescribed. Some considerations include the following:

  • Use of non-narcotic pain meds
  • Understanding how to taper down dosage
  • Avoid regular, daily use
  • Prescriptions do not need to necessarily be taken
  • Use non-pharmacological pain treatment such as exercise and meditation for pain relief


Treatment for addiction to opioids has greatly improved over the last few decades. Medications can be given to ease symptoms during detox and withdrawal in a treatment setting is much easier as symptoms can be treated with other medication and supportive care. It is worth considering treatment for an individual with addiction to opioids before it is too late.


If you or a loved one struggle with addiction to opioids or other drugs, Hired Power provides support and resources to help you recover. Contact us to find out how we can help you meet your goals of being sober and clean from drugs and alcohol.